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A. S. Hayden
Early History of the Disciples (1875)


C H A P T E R   X X I I I.


I. A
LL the experience of the past forty years confirms the soundness and strength of our position before the world. This position is embraced in three propositions:

      1st, The Bible contains God's only and complete revelation to man.

      2d, It is to be interpreted by the ordinary, established rules.

      3d, It is to be interpreted by every man for himself.

      On these three propositions is founded a broad corollary, viz: The Bible, thus interpreted, will inevitably lead Christendom out of its leopard-like sectarianisms back to the original, divine unity, and restore to the church her lost power for the conversion of the world.

      On this bottom we put to sea. Not a leak has yet been found. The vessel has proved herself seaworthy. Her hull is as sound as when she was launched. Not a plank has stirred. She has weathered many storms and rode out many tempests. She has been attacked by the war-crafts of nearly all nations, and is proved to be invincible.

      Every re-examination of the ground of our faith has only confirmed it. Why should it not? Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Lord, the reigning Sovereign and Monarch of the whole universe, is the [454] only object personal of our faith, our love, and our obedience; and the whole Bible is the "testimony of Jesus." This is our plea, and it is invulnerable. It never can be overthrown. "The gates of hades shall not prevail against it." It can not be improved. We are not advocates of a reformed religion, but of religion itself. Christ's religion can not be reformed. He is himself the author and the finisher of his most holy religion; and, like himself, it is perfect. This to proclaim, this to defend, on this divine basis to re-assemble, and re-incorporate the divided battalions of the Captain of salvation; this is our purpose, our work, and our plea before the men of this generation.

      II. Our forty years' experiences teaches the necessity of a due adjustment of the evangelical and pastoral work.

      Under Walter Scott a new order arose. It was given to him to blow the trumpet of the gospel. His work was purely an evangelism. The matters of the Christian religion are classified under two fundamental departments--the evangelical and the ecclesiastical; or, the gospel and the church. The gospel is prior to the church. The evangelist forms and establishes the church. This work accomplished, there begins another class of agencies specifically described in the New Testament: This is the eldership, or pastorate of the church.

      In the beginning, the recovery of the ancient gospel, as a lost jewel, so startled and excited all hearts, and the success attending the preaching of it was so marvelous that little was thought of but the speedy and certain capture of the world for Christ. The [455] "sects" would surrender, or be blown to atoms. Nothing was looked for but the immediate triumph of the gospel over all opposition. Nor must this ardent hope be accounted a mere enthusiasm, or be handed over to the credit of an overestimate of the importance of the views of the gospel just then freshly brought to light. The law of Moses was "weak through the flesh;" so, under the gospel of Christ, there is a human side in the affair. Here is where the failure lies of realizing, the high hopes of the most brilliant success.

      Thoughtful men predicted this at the beginning. The admirable Osborne saw it, and lamented the absence of a system for holding and training the converts. William Hayden foresaw confusion, and a coming disappointment of the mistaken hopes of the more ardent. They remonstrated with Scott, but that angel of the tempest, beholding victory on all sides, blew louder his silver trumpet of salvation, and replied: "O, convert the people, and give them the Holy Ghost, and they will be safe!" Benajah Austin, a man of sense like a governor, said to Bentley and Henry: "You must stop; the longer you go on the worse it will be. It will come to confusion. If you go on twenty years in this way it will be all the worse, for you will have to stop at last. There must be suitable men appointed to take care of the converts."

      No one, not even Scott, consented to a loose, disorganized state of the churches. Far otherwise. The scriptural eldership, the discipline and edification of the converts, were the subjects of early and constant discourse. But it was subordinate. Is it [456] surprising, then, that some converts fell away? that churches languished, and that numbers of them fell into dilapidation and were extinguished? If the due adjustment of these two agencies had been suitably disposed at the beginning, it would have resulted in far greater strength and prosperity. It is a marvel that the churches have stood so well--a proof of the truth and power of the principles of our pleading, rather than of the skill or wisdom of our management.

      III. It was a mistake to start so many churches. This error was a result of the exuberance of evangelical zeal already noticed. For this there is much apology in the inexperience attending the beginnings of the enterprise, and still more in the lack of men to maintain the ground conquered by the aggression of the heroic evangelist. These cases of neglected congregations are referred to as examples of failure. They oppose now the most formidable obstacle in the way of lifting up the cause into new life.

      There is an old Latin proverb which teaches that "it is right to learn, even of an enemy." Other religious bodies could have taught us wisdom, if we had not spurned every thing that the fingers of "sectarianism " had touched. Perhaps it would have been no less wise to have taken a few hints from their management than it is now for us to gather up the needed lessons from a retrospect of our own. Some twenty-eight years ago Episcopacy set its eye on a community within the limits of my labors. That cause was, in all respects, feeble. The Presbyterian, Congregational, and other forms of belief, cried out: "If a [457] fox go up upon it, he shall even break down their stone wall." The reproach passed unheeded. Every year, not one excepted, the bishop of Ohio has made his parochial visit to this feeble parish. Scarcely has he once failed to "confirm" new members of the body. The interests of that cause have been looked after with a vigilance reflecting credit to that people; and, it now stands as a monument of their undeviating perseverance. Is it an evidence of strength in Episcopacy? would it be a proof of weakness in us to adopt a similar policy? Is it strength there and weakness here? Is it surprising that intelligent, discerning citizens, casting about for a "home," turn from a people where they see evidences of looseness in plan, and weakness in system, and yield themselves up in membership to organized bodies who conduct their enterprises systematically and successfully? Our gospel has won many friends who have been lost to us through feebleness of plan and want of system.

      It would be neither wise nor just to heap reproaches, as is the habit of some, upon the fathers and pioneers of our religious work, for the misdirected efforts of the early part of our history. This wisdom to direct could be learned only by experience. And this skillful adjustment of materials could be made only when there were materials to adjust and to manage. But on us, the factors of this age, will justly rest reproach, if with the past as a lesson, we do not see where to improve. Still more, if seeing, we refuse, on account of willfulness or indifference, to rectify our errors and to labor for reform in our methods. [458]


      In the opening of our plea on the Western Reserve the iconoclast was among us. He wrought for us, though in a far less honorable sense, the work which Goethe said was accomplished by Lord Bacon. "He took a sponge and wiped from the tablet all records of former knowledge."

      The cry ran--clear away the rubbish, that the foundations of the Lord's house may be laid. Reformation is one thing, demolition another, and restoration still another. Discrimination did not well rule the hour. No records were kept after 1828. Some of the churches thought it a violation of this reformation to have any records whatever, even a list of the names of the members. There was no authority for it in the word of the Lord. "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where they are silent, we are silent." The noblest of rules; but, applied to mere prudentials, most egregiously misapplied. So, as the Scriptures gave no instructions about church records the whole matter was ruled out of order, and out of the church.

      Alas! what has been lost by this misdirected zeal! The zeal was good, but the wisdom was the essence of folly. What would we not give now for a continuance of the records of the Mahoning Association, which met two years under that name after the records ceased? Why were there no records of our yearly meetings? What rich and abundant materials for future history and instruction?

      Who can tell us, from historic data, even now correctly, about our debates, and the mighty campaigns [459] which have given us so many communities for Jesus Christ? Who now, from any preserved records, can tell the history of Henry, that swift messenger of the glad tidings? In vain we question records for an account of his conversion, his baptism, and how he came forth from being a driver of oxen and a bugler for regiments, to become a leader in the embattled hosts of the armies of the living God. And Brockett, the blessed; and Smith, the saint; and Collins, the colleague of the honorable!

      In these pages, personal knowledge and gathered data have, in part, supplied this lack. But this source of information is, with the passing generation, rapidly going down to the dumb grave; the silent receptacle of all things human.

      The scribe was a man of high authority among the Jews, a little vain, and a sweep of his robe somewhat too ample. The horn of oil made the nation jubilant when it was emptied in the consecration of a priest or a king. But the horn of ink has made many nations joyful by its recitals of their deeds, and its transmissions of their jubilees.

      Oh, that Scott had kept a diary! that our earlier men had written as well as talked! Thanks to Baxter; whose skill and zeal have evoked from the tomb of the mighty, a history distinguished both for its beauty and its truth. Of what infinite embarrassment would he have been relieved by contemporaneous records!

      The historic muse prepared his reed to sing the illustrious deeds of the panoplied pioneers, not in verse, but in plain and humble prose. Yet the prose should fall little below the powers of the loftiest [460] muses, to record in fitting terms the grand anthem of their heroism and their triumph. Shall the next generation find this one as barren of records as we find the past?

      V. Once more. All our past history proclaims the necessity of a combination of effort to advance the gospel.

      This cause originated in conventional effort. After three years these associational plans were laid aside, and we subsided, on this point, into a state of apostasy. During the last twenty years we have been slowly recovering and steadily returning to our first works. In August, 1827, ministers of the gospel assembled in New Lisbon, selected an evangelist, and sent him into the field. This action gave us Walter Scott. In 1828, the churches were again represented by delegation in Warren. This convention chose and sent out Walter Scott and William Hayden. In 1829, the association repeated its work, sending into the evangelical field four men--Scott, Hayden, Bentley, and Bosworth.

      On this concert of action, the following observations deserve particular mention:

      1st, These evangelists were selected and sent out by the ministry of the church acting in their delegated capacity.

      2d, This joint action was threefold:

      (a) They selected ministers or proclaimers of the gospel;

      (b) They appointed their fields of labor;

      (c) They arranged for their compensation.

      3d, The churches felt bound by the action of their delegates. They received the evangelists, and by [461] contributions and other material ways they assisted and co-operated in their work.

      It should be farther noted, that Bro. Campbell was the prime mover and the active leader in this scheme of associational effort to bring an evangelist into the field. This movement was conducted with the most perfect unanimity, not a dissentient in that body. It was the action of the soundest, wisest, most deliberative, and prudent men.

      The twenty years succeeding is the period of our anarchy. During this time we had no concert, regular or irregular, stated or incidental, if we except some ineffectual efforts to bring a better order into existence. The great saving power was the yearly meeting system. This, serving as a bond of union, was a powerful support to the cause. These meetings were the conservation of the churches. They were aggressive, adding multitudes of converts. By diffusing a general, personal acquaintance, they cultivated a strong tie of brotherhood. Yet with all their benefits, which were neither few nor weak, they were not organic. They sent out no missionaries; they called for no reports; they performed no action for the churches, nor for the systematic diffusion of the gospel. They came as a cloud with blessings, poured out their treasure of good, and departed.

      During these years many attempts were made to form co-operations. They were failures. The cry of priest-craft, or, sectarianism, was alone sufficient to blast the effort for order.

      The first fact, or action, which gathered to it a general confidence, was the establishment of the Eclectic Institute. It opened its halls for students in [462] November, 1850. Slowly at first, amid doubts and opposition, it got under way. It gained rapidly, and won the confidence of all the brotherhood in north-eastern Ohio. The chief glory of that institution has not been told: which was, that it created a most desirable and useful general confidence among us. We united. We joined hands around one good enterprise. The purpose succeeded, and vindicated the most useful sentiment of union in action. May this lesson never be lost. As the noble Eclectic Institute, of many happy memories, has not died, but has succeeded in a still more noble and useful Institution, our beloved Hiram College--long may it prosper--so let this general unity of confidence, to which it gave birth, grow into all that is desirable in the formation of all needful plans to send forth the gospel as at the beginning of our blessed work. This confidence is transferring itself to our missionary work. Around this society let it rally till it shall become a permanent power in the land!


      As this blessed cause, so dear to our hearts, has maintained itself in all vicissitudes, has braved all opposition, and still flourishes with little combination among its leaders, will our forty years' experience, if questioned, speak out and tell us the reason? I answer most unequivocally, it will. Its answer is in 2 Tim. 4:1, 2. "-----------preach the word!" This is the only solution. This answer is complete.

      Ask the blessed dead, they will tell you; the Applegates, the Altons, the Bosworths, the Brocketts, and the Bentleys; the Collins, the Clapps; the Haydens, [463] the Henrys, and the Smiths; the Otises, the Waits, and the Violls. They preached the gospel. They were no mere essayists. They were not theorizers, nor speculatists. They preached Christ and him crucified. In this they were a unit. The same gospel was preached in every town, county, and school district. They used their Bibles. They read, quoted, illustrated, and enforced the Holy Scriptures. This lesson is all important. We must "preach the word," not something about the gospel, but the gospel itself. Some of our preachers should sit at the feet of the departed veterans, and learn to speak and enforce Bible themes in Bible words. Let us have more Scripture, in its exact meaning and import; more gospel, more of Jesus, his will, his mission, and his work. This was their power. It will be ours. Most of all, and last of all, we impress this lesson: preach the gospel in season, out of season. Preach it as Peter preached, as Paul preached it. Be not weak, nor ashamed of its facts, commands, and promises, as delivered to us by our fathers; and to them by the holy apostles. [464]


[EHD 454-464]

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A. S. Hayden
Early History of the Disciples (1875)

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